LYNN, Mass. -- One thing hockey fans can expect to see a lot of when the Duxbury girls take the ice is pressure. In heavy doses.
That pressure came last night in the form of a relentless forecheck, which in turn created scoring chances that the Dragons were able to cash in on. Ally Hammel and Meredith Wright each had a goal and assist and Rachel Myette stopped 16 shots to help Duxbury take a 4-1 victory over St. Mary's at Connery Rink Wednesday night.
Despite a roster featuring just two seniors and four juniors, the Dragons (2-0) are as deep and talented a team as you'll find in Massachusetts. And every one of those girls that hops over the boards has one thing in mind for her shift - attack.
"Our gameplan going in was to put the pressure on them, get that wave after wave of attackers coming in and force them in the neutral zone and make them make the tough pass and continue to have the support to go in there as the second girl in," said Duxbury coach Friend Weiler. "They are such a strong, explosive team and we wanted to make sure we kind of put them back on their heels and not let them get it started."
In addition to pressure, Weiler wants his team to put bodies around opposing creases. That activity led directly to the Dragons first goal as Hammel stuck a shot from the left point through traffic with 3:16 to play in the first period.
Duxbury increased its lead to 3-0 early in the second as Hannah Murphy and Wright scored within 46 seconds of one another. The Dragons second power play chance resulted in another score as Jacqui Nolan won a faceoff back to younger sister Julia for a hard shot that found the back of the net.
"It's about going to the net, fundamental hockey," Weiler said. "Against a great team like St. Mary's, you can't afford to make mental errors and I just wanted the girls to stay sharp and have a high-energy, high-tempo game and try to keep up with them. And they were able to do that by going hard to the net and converting when we needed to."
St. Mary's (1-1) got one back as Gabby Crugnale got loose for breakaway and fired one past Myette at 9:39 of the second, a goal that seemed to shift the momentum of the game. The Spartans became the team applying the pressure, while Duxbury was forced to sit back and play defense.
Myette turned in a strong final frame, however, and the Dragons killed off four penalties from the end of the second through the third to take the win.
SPECIAL TEAMS WAS KEY
The quarter of Hammel, Jacqui Nolan, Liz Collins and Payton Donato took the lead role on Duxbury's shorthanded unit and performed beyond admirably. Faced with the prospect of defending dominant offensive talents such as Alison Butler and Kaleigh Finigan, the Dragons managed to hold St. Mary's scoreless on all five power play opportunities they drew.
"I have a lot of faith in my penalty-kill," praised Weiler. "They do a great job of staying aggressive and not giving them room to move or room to pass. They're taking away passing lanes and really keeping the pressure on. You don't want to get back in a defensive shell. You want to maintain that high intensity, the high pressure, and put it back on them."
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
Despite the final outcome, there were certainly plenty of positives for St. Mary's to take away. First and foremost, they know they won't likely face another team with the speed, talent and intensity of Duxbury.
The Spartans never quit, and even after falling into a 4-0 hole they actually took control of the tempo. Scoring chances were there and, while being a little snake-bit at times in this one, the finishing touch will come because the talent is there.
"At times I thought we did a good job of puck pursuit, getting on the puck quick and forcing them to turn the puck over, which is all positive," St. Mary's coach Frank Pagliuca said. "Even though we got down 4-0, the kids kept fighting back and Gabby had a great goal there to get us back in the game."
"The last five minutes of the second period I thought we did a good job of getting on them and pressuring them and we had opportunities, we just didn't finish them. But that's the way hockey is sometimes."